February 5th in history:
Three veterans of “Saturday Night Live” share a February 5th birthday: Christopher Guest (born 1948), best known for directing and/or acting in mock documentaries including “This is Spinal Tap” and “Waiting for Guffman”; Tim Meadows (1961), whose most famous SNL character was “The Ladies’ Man”; and Chris Parnell (1967), alias Dr. Spaceman on “30 Rock.”
Parnell was born on the same day in ’67 that “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” debuted on CBS. The often-controversial variety show hosted by Tom and Dick Smothers was a launching pad for talent such as frequent SNL host Steve Martin and “Spinal Tap” director Rob Reiner.
Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and director D.W. Griffith combined their talents to launch a film studio on this date in 1919…United Artists. United Artists had big hits with the Beatles’ first two movies, “Gilligan’s Island” and the James Bond franchise.
In the opening scene of the 007 movie “Goldfinger,” Bond battles a drug lord from Mexico. February 5th is the anniversary of the Mexican constitution, adopted in 1917.
A different milestone for Central America was the development of the Panama Canal. On February 5th, 1900, the United States and Great Britain signed a treaty to create the canal, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
December 7 in history:
Delaware became the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution on December 7th, 1787. As a result, it uses “The First State” as a nickname.
The most recent state to join the union, Hawaii, was not a state yet on December 7th, 1941, when it was attacked by Japanese war planes. The surprise attack on the naval base at Pearl Harbor, early on a Sunday morning, claimed nearly 2500 American lives, destroyed dozens of U.S. planes, and sank four battleships. Almost 1200 people died when the U.S.S. Arizona exploded. President Roosevelt declared war on Japan the next day.
Many Americans first heard the news about Pearl Harbor during a break in a CBS radio broadcast of the New York Philharmonic. On December 7th, 1930, an experimental television broadcast of a radio orchestra concert reportedly featured the first TV commercial in U.S. history. The ad, broadcast in Boston, promoted a fur company that sponsored the radio show. The commercial was illegal because the government didn’t allow advertising on television yet.
TV history was made again on December 7th, 1963…with the first instant replay during a live sports broadcast. Director Tony Verna from CBS set up videotape equipment to play back portions of the Army-Navy football game. The CBS announcers had to tell viewers that the replay was a recording of something that had happened earlier in the game.
Happy birthday! Another television first happened on December 7th, in 1969…the first broadcast of the “Frosty the Snowman” cartoon special on CBS. With characters drawn by Mad magazine artist Paul Coker Jr., the show featured the voice of comedian Jackie Vernon as Frosty, with Jimmy Durante as the narrator.
November 8 in history:
Two Roosevelts were elected president on November 8th — 28 years apart. The first was Teddy Roosevelt in 1904, winning a full term after filling out the unexpired term of William McKinley. And Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated Herbert Hoover in 1932 for the first of his four presidential wins.
In other famous elections on November 8th…John F. Kennedy narrowly beat Richard Nixon for the White House in 1960, Ronald Reagan was elected governor of California in 1966, and Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential race over Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Trump may be the only U.S. president who inspired a board game before becoming Chief Executive. “Trump: The Game,” a real estate contest, was introduced by the Milton Bradley Company in 1989. Inventor Milton Bradley was born on this day in 1836. The company is known for “The Game of Life,” “Candyland,” and “Chutes and Ladders,” as well as for home versions of popular TV game shows.
The panel show “What’s My Line?” inspired a couple of U.S. home versions, neither one made by Milton Bradley. Columnist Dorothy Kilgallen was a regular panelist on “Line” for 15 years, until her sudden death on November 8th, 1965, a few hours after appearing live on the Sunday night program. Conspiracy theorists have suggested someone murdered Kilgallen for knowing too much about the JFK assassination, or UFOs, or something else. By coincidence, Kilgallen’s death was announced on CBS just after her pre-taped appearance on the November 8th daytime episode of “To Tell the Truth.” On that same day, the NBC soap opera “Days of Our Lives” made its debut, beginning a run that continues today.
November 4 in history:
U.S. Presidents elected on November 4th include Barack Obama in 2008, Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, and Ronald Reagan in 1980.
The ’80 election may have been decided partly because of two things that happened November 4th, 1979. On that day, radicals in Iran took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and kept 52 people hostage for the next 444 days. The hostage incident was a protest of America’s decision to allow the former Shah of Iran into the U.S. for medical treatment, a move which some believed was part of an American plot to return him to power.
The other event was a TV interview with Senator Ted Kennedy aired on November 4th of ’79 on CBS, shortly before Kennedy announced he would challenge President Carter for the Democratic nomination. Roger Mudd of CBS asked Kennedy why he wanted to be president. Media pundits repeatedly criticized Kennedy after he was unable to give a straight answer to the question.
Roger Mudd was a frequent substitute anchor on the “CBS Evening News” for long-time anchor Walter Cronkite, who was born on this date in 1916. Like Cronkite, another person known for announcing election results on TV was born on November 4th…Jeff Probst (1962), famous for saying “The tribe has spoken” in declaring who was voted off the island on the reality show “Survivor.”
October 3 in history:
The popular “Siegfried and Roy” magic act at the Mirage in Las Vegas was disrupted on October 3rd, 2003, when one of the duo’s famous tigers bit Roy Horn in the neck. The attack effectively brought an end to the long-running act, although Siegfried and Roy did comeback performances a few years later. The tiger attack happened on Roy’s 59th birthday.
A mouse and a “kangaroo” both began long-running children’s shows on TV on October 3rd, 1955. The mouse was Mickey Mouse, cartoon star of the original “Mickey Mouse Club” on ABC, featuring the Mouseketeers, talented kids wearing sweaters and mouse ears. Same day, different network: “Captain Kangaroo” made his debut on CBS. Bob Keeshan played the Captain as a grandfatherly host with a big mustache and deep-pocketed jackets. He had a number of “animal” co-stars, including Dancing Bear and the puppets Bunny Rabbit and Mr. Moose.
“Buffalo wings” were invented on this day in 1964. That is, a special recipe for chicken wings coated with cayenne pepper sauce, created at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, N.Y.
The Buffalo Bills football team featured Heisman winner O.J. Simpson on their roster for nine seasons. Millions tuned in to live TV on this day in 1995 to see Simpson acquitted in the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. On the same date 13 years later, Simpson was found guilty in a kidnapping and armed robbery case in Nevada. He served nine years in prison in that case, and was released in 2017, just days before the October 3rd anniversary of both verdicts.
September 28 in history:
The battle which ended the American Revolution began on September 28th, 1781. The British surrendered three weeks into the Battle of Yorktown in Virginia.
“Revolution” was the flip side of the Beatles’ single “Hey Jude,” which became the number-one song in America on this day in 1968, replacing “Harper Valley P.T.A.” “Hey Jude” stayed on top of the charts for two months.
The Beatles led the “British Invasion” of American popular music when they first appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964. Sullivan was born September 28th, 1901…the same day and year as his long-time boss at CBS, network founder William S. Paley.
September 4 in history:
On September 4th, 1957, Ford Motor Company president Henry Ford the 2nd celebrated his 40th birthday by unveiling a new car brand named after his late father, Edsel Ford. Edsels in showrooms around America were kept under wraps until the 4th, “E-Day.” More than 60,000 Edsels were built the first year, but two years later, production was down to about three thousand, and the brand was discontinued.
An Edsel may have been given away as a prize on “The Price Is Right” during its original run on TV in the 1950s and ’60s. On September 4th, 1972, the game show was revived on CBS as “The New Price Is Right,” hosted by Bob Barker. A contestant won a Chevrolet Vega wagon worth $2,746 in the first “pricing game” of the new show.
A new way of taking photographs was introduced by inventor George Eastman: a personal camera that used rolls of film instead of photographic plates. On this date in 1888, Eastman registered the trademark name “Kodak” for the camera company he would start four years later.
Another leap in technology occurred on September 4th, 1998, when Stanford graduate students Sergey Brin and Larry Page incorporated a company named Google, which would become famous for its internet search engine.